Fastest Growing Occupations in Wyoming: Requisite Related Skills
As we saw in Chapter 3, the greatest growth in Wyoming will occur in production, construction, operating, maintenance, and material handling occupations. The occupational profile of growth produces consequences for the types of skills in demand. In addition to understanding occupational trends, economic and workforce developers, employers, and workers want to know how to identify, plan for, and meet the specific skill and training needs of businesses and their employees. The measure of a successful (sustainable) labor market transaction is often more than a job match--it is a skills match. Unless workers have or can gain the knowledge, experience, and skills to take on a new job, they may not stay employed for long. What are some of the projected skills associated with Wyoming's occupational demand?
O*Net, the Occupational Information Network, developed by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), offers a standardized classification system that helps us characterize both occupational requirements and workers' skills. Table 4-1 offers an example of Research & Planning's (R&P's) capacity to provide labor market skills analysis. The Table lists the 25 occupational codes projected to add the most jobs to Wyoming's economy between the period 1998-2008.15
The categories used by O*Net in Table 4-1 permit ranking of each occupational code among 46 basic and cross-functional skills. A score, on a scale of 0 (lowest) to 100 (highest), comparatively rates the importance of each of these skills to each occupation. Those scores of 60 and above (shaded on the Table) indicate a skill of primary importance to the occupation, as defined by O*Net criteria. The analysis of skills associated with projected growth occupations demonstrates the prevalence of demand for specific skills and skill categories within the Wyoming labor market. To permit useful occupational skill comparisons, we arranged the skill categories in Table 4-1 to create a graduated pattern of management-related, Cross Functional Skills on the left and Basic Skills on the right. We also sorted the 25 net growth occupational codes in descending order by the sum of the skill importance ratings for the 46 skills. The shaded patterns of primary skill importance serve to identify and group together occupations sharing the same skill categories, if not the same skills.
In Table 4-1, the mean rank of skill importance at the bottom of the Table provides a measure of the intensity of the demand for a specific skill among all 25 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Codes. Notably, "problem identification," listed among Complex Problem Solving Skills, is the only cross-functional skill with a mean importance rank above 50. A mean in the middle range of 40-60 indicates a highly transferable skill, one important across a large share of occupations.
The median rank of skill importance at the bottom of Table 4-1, especially if it falls well below the mean, indicates that a skill is important to only a few occupations. For example, the Resource Skill, "management of personnel resources," shows a median score of 16 and a mean score of 32. This lower median score reflects that only five of the twenty-five occupational codes identify management of personnel resources as an important occupational requirement. In contrast, when a median value exceeds the mean value, the skill is then important to a considerable share of occupations, but is assigned a low or very low importance to others. The Content Skill, "speaking," has a higher median than mean score. "Speaking" is considered a primarily important skill among 14 of the 25 occupational codes. However, for successful performance of some solitary occupations (e.g., truck drivers, food preparation workers), "speaking" holds much less importance.
Table 4-1 shows over the 1998-2008 period that only seven of 25 occupations give primary importance to one or more skills in all three of the Resource, Systems, and Complex Problem Solving Skills categories. These seven include general/executive (OES 19005), financial (13002), food/lodging (15026) management positions, construction supervisors (81005), secondary teachers (31308), residential counselors (27307), and registered nurses (32502). These seven occupations also give primary importance to several of selected Social and Basic Skills. Another two occupations, service unit operators (87917) and marketing sales supervisors (41002), score more often in the middle ranges of skill importance for several Cross Functional and Basic Skills.
Only supervisors/construction trade workers (OES Code 81005), service unit operators (87917), pipe fitters (87502), maintenance repairers/ general utility (85132), and carpenters (87102) are classified as having some technical skills with an importance rank of 80 or higher. The majority of net growth occupations in Wyoming assign comparatively low importance to technical skills.
Several of Wyoming's projected net growth occupations, particularly those associated with the Retail Trade and Services industries [e.g., stock clerks (49021), cashiers (49023), waiters & waitresses (65008), food preparation (65041), and service workers (65038)] assign low importance to virtually every Cross Functional Skills category. Exceptions are two Social Skills: "social perceptiveness" and "service orientation." The Content Skills of "active listening" and "speaking," especially, are primarily important to these occupations.
Analysis of demand for specific occupational skills yields several observations. Only one of Wyoming's 25 net growth occupational codes, registered nurses (32502), identifies "science" as a primary skill qualification, and nearly one-third of the 25 occupational codes assign "science" a score of zero (0). Among Cross Functional Skills, most net growth occupations in Wyoming appear to assign low importance to the Social Skills of "negotiation," "persuasion," and "instructing." Few occupations attribute high importance to the Technical Skills of "technology design," "installation," "programming," "testing," "operation monitoring," "equipment maintenance, " and "repairing." Among the Complex Problem Solving Skills, "synthesis/reorganization" appeared of primary importance only to one occupational code, general managers/top executives (19005).
To a large extent, the occupational skill analysis yields few surprises. It does, however, refine our understanding of the earlier observation that too many of the net growth jobs in Wyoming are associated with lower skill levels and lower wages. One of the challenges faced by junior colleges or technical schools, in particular, is to determine a response to the steady demand for either lower-skilled workers or educated workers who will accept low paying jobs. How do Wyoming educators balance their responsiveness to a local labor market demanding fewer high-level Cross Functional Skills, and at the same time demographic changes requiring colleges to compete for more out-of-state students focused on higher educational opportunities, seeking training for jobs without regard to location?
15 In the future, Research & Planning or others could use the same type of skills analysis to examine the fastest growing occupations (see Table 3-3), occupations within a specific industry (e.g., Retail Trade or Telecommunications), or occupations with high rates of employee turnover. These O*Net skill codes could also be linked through occupational code crosswalks to the Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) Codes used by technical and higher educational programs. CIP codes can be used to identify what types of local or statewide occupational training are currently being taught in Wyoming or adjacent states--and what skills training opportunities are currently in short supply or altogether unavailable.
Last modified on August 10, 2001 by Valerie A. Davis.